How do you deal with being told a hard truth? Two personal experiences come to mind.
When I was five, my parents called a family meeting. I am the youngest of three, and apparently we weren’t carrying our weight. I was given the task of rinsing out the soda bottles. My response to this outrage? I cried! While embarrassing in retrospect, I don’t recall ever cleaning out the bottles, so don’t rule out crying as a negotiating strategy.
The other time was more serious. As a young adult, things were not going well. Problems at home made my job performance suffer. My boss called me in and had no sympathy. He said: “Do you think you’re the only one with problems?” My initial thought was: “What a jerk!” But after that, I thought: “Well, he’s not wrong.”
Hard truths can be painful. As much as it feels better when people tell us what we want to hear, it’s better to accept the truth.
In Luke 17:7-10, Jesus provides an example of the attitude of a humble servant: “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
If this were the only thing that Jesus ever said, we might be tempted to pack it in and try another religion. But of course, we ought to hear this in the full context of all of Jesus’ teaching – and the witness of His life.
Jesus used a vivid image to illustrate the attitude of a humble servant – without any sense of entitlement.
It’s a harsh lesson, especially to modern ears. Our culture has changed so much over the past few generations. In many ways, life was harder back then. Everything seemed more black and white, without room for excuses. And perhaps, there was a harshness that needed tempering.
But now, the pendulum has swung wildly in the other direction. Everything is gray. Morality is relative, and subject to revision every few years. We’re expected to “evolve” to adopt the views of the secular mainstream. If we don’t agree, we’re considered haters.
Thank God, the teaching of Jesus Christ in Scripture is timeless, immune to the waves that may come and go. Amid the ups and downs of life, He calls us to maintain the attitude of a humble servant.
Traditionally, “religion” was seen as a virtue, an expression of the cardinal virtue of justice. Put simply, “justice” is rendering to another what is due. We give respect and honor to parents, because it is due. Above all, we give worship to God. Why? Because it is due.
During the Preface of the Mass, we say the words: “It is right and just.”
We are called to worship the Lord, because it is due. And we worship Him in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, because Jesus said “Do this in memory of me.”
We must never forget that sense of justice and obedience in our worship, and awe as we pray before Almighty God.
These are hard truths we need to hear – but don’t cry! The Lord is near.
We can be confident that the Lord does not merely demand worship that is due. He has revealed Himself as Father, who calls us to love Him as His children.
Jesus, the Divine and Eternal Word, humbled Himself and became man, and took the sins of all humanity upon Himself. He became a servant, making Himself vulnerable to rejection, even crucifixion, for love of us.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right and just!
Father John Maria is Pastor of St. Mary, Kutztown and Sacramental Ministry at St. Christopher Catholic Newman Center, Kutztown University.